Monday, June 15, 2015

Getting started... What if?

High expectations... It is amazing how I tackle a book when I have them! I am VERY careful to read in small chunks to try and digest. Sometimes though, I find it difficult to get "into" the book because I feel that I need to absorb it all. That is where I am with Ron Ritchhart's book, Creating cultures of thinking: The 8 Forces we Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools. I need to relax a bit, read through it, with the mindset that I can return as needed.

I have read the Introduction and Chapter 1. Here's my thinking so far:

  • Couldn't agree more that we need to have a common understanding and belief of what we are trying to accomplish. 
  • There isn't a recipe for a culture of thinking, but when you have it you should know it. To me, it is rather like being in "the flow," you're absorbed in what your doing and highly productive towards your goal (Does that make sense?).
  • Our expectations need to be focused "for our students" not "of our students." I like that distinction because it isn't about managing behaviors but about empowering students to learn. 
  • He references Vygotsky's work (fitting for us - "Find the zone!") and how we learn "with others in the midst of authentic activities" and the importance of the intellectual experiences we offer students.
  • I identified with Nicole (pg 23) as far as my experience in school. I was pretty good at playing the game of school. I vividly remember 3 learning experiences: 
    • 4th grade - special summer camp where I learned about the stock market. We actually tracked and graphed our own selected stocks. I was engaged.
    • 10th & 11th grade - Had a great ELA teacher - Mrs. Scott - who really cared and challenged your thinking - I still didn't do my best work much of the time, but I was forced to think
    • 12th grade - Trig - Had to use what I knew to mathematically figure out the outline of a side view of a car. It was the closest thing to understanding that higher level math that I ever knew.
  • Learning is a consequence of thinking! (pg 31)


Questions/What I'm pondering:

  • How might we change the culture - from one of completion of work and getting grades? Recently, I was talking with a SBISD parent who believes in everything this book is about but told me that when her kids got to high school she was done fighting the fight and told her kids to just "get the grade."
  • How might we compel all to make a shift like this? It is a lot of work - people need to model who they are as thinkers and learners (pg 8). As Ron says... that requires authenticity. Modeling: risk taking, reflection, success as outgrowth of failure... (Interesting because there is this notion of "work ethic" but aren't we training our students to think success is easily attained... that they can't fail...)
  • What are "thinking" dispositions? Well, guess he spells them out, but just in case I might have some additional ideas... ;-)
  • What if... our clientele understand that the model we went through isn't preparing our students (and didn't really prepare us) for success. (pg 29) 
  • What if ...our clientele understand that they have a stake in their child's education.  As my friend and old next-door neighbor growing up says, she wishes her parents had valued school/learning like mine did. 

Here's the real meat for me:
"When we make thinking visible, we are provided a window into not only what students understand but also how they are understanding it... We need to make thinking visible because it provides us with the information necessary to plan the opportunities that can take students' learning to the next level and enable continued engagement with the ideas of study." (pg. 32)
Why am I asking that we read this and consider the role of technology? What "affordances" does technology bring to documenting student thinking?  As Grant Lichtman says in his book #EDJourney,
"Technology provides some of the arrows in the quiver of innovation. Real innovation in learning means reframing the mindset of the archers - the students and teachers..."
I think reframing what we value through the lens of thinking will, in fact, begin our innovation. How might we begin?


9 comments:

  1. I feel like a place to begin is by reflecting on our own thinking. This is easily said, but often hard to do. Which goes back to the importance of having a group. Discourse allows for digestion and reflection. I'm wanting to find ways for more authentic teacher reflection. I am beginning to understand through this process that it is important to slow down. Much like my students I often go too fast. We think of time as something to make, a slot or space. But I am thinking more of just mulling over. Chewing on it for a bit (which you made me think of). I think we have to employ the concept of iteration much more. Our students have no concept of this. This conversation has made me realize I really want to focus on this next year with my students, this concept of purposeful and meaningful iteration.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Couldn't agree more! Might I suggest that we are the architects of the problem? The lack of understanding that learning is an iterative process might begin with the structures and process we have in place. Hopefully, through our conversations we can challenge our practices and begin to break down some of our own structures. Of course, it might be easier as an army, but I guess we are going to have to begin with a platoon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The entire model schools conference was based on this idea of moving from the one size fits all model of education into one that will actually challenge students on their thinking level, and then move them forward from there. I think that we definitely have to start with the adults we serve though. Right now we give them information in a one size fits all model. I think that we have discussed having a standards based classroom or school, where the students are assessed on their mastery of the standards as they choose to tackle them. I wonder if we could do that with our teachers and leaders. Here are our standards, how are you going to master them and show us that you did? I'm really intrigued by that as a model for education.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The entire model schools conference was based on this idea of moving from the one size fits all model of education into one that will actually challenge students on their thinking level, and then move them forward from there. I think that we definitely have to start with the adults we serve though. Right now we give them information in a one size fits all model. I think that we have discussed having a standards based classroom or school, where the students are assessed on their mastery of the standards as they choose to tackle them. I wonder if we could do that with our teachers and leaders. Here are our standards, how are you going to master them and show us that you did? I'm really intrigued by that as a model for education.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Question about your Model Schools Conference and standards-based grading... How many parents from your community also attended? Or, what might be the plan to engage your community in on the conversation? I believe we have been attended the Model School Conference for many years, yet i see no change. It has been a nice respite, but then the reality of the work must hit and,,,, business as usual.

    I remember back in the 90s when we attempted competency-based grading. The backlash... well, look at our current practices. So, somehow, someway, we need to engage our community in the conversation. How might there be a better model than school by school as it appears that method is not proving to be successful for us.

    As Grant Litchman questions, "What is holding us back?" (pg. 252 #EDJourney) His response in a nutshell, "Cut through the anchors that hold our teacher back, break the external dams of higher ed admissions, and break down the silos that prevent change from spreading." (I'm sure I didn't cite that appropriately, but you get the picture.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Community buy in is a huge piece of the puzzle, and one that the model schools who were highlighted all had. Buy in! They really advocate for community and student involvement in decision making. I love the idea of getting the kids involved. From the look of our Tripod survey results, we need to get them involved. They are crying out to us for their voices to be heard!

      Delete
  6. On the "breaking down of structures"--- I hear you all saying that we need to start with ourselves. If I am correct in that inference...I completely agree. We need to first recognize the structures that we hold onto and operate within because they are safe, comfortable, and provide immediate validation. However, in thinking about how I arrived here professionally...reading a book and engaging in learning without any extrinsic motivation, i.e. no pdlc credit, I kept coming up with nothing...sort of a blank, but feeling like someone or something had to have planted that seed. Well, I found it, or, who, rather. Doing some summer cleaning, I found some writings from one of my undergraduate classes. Well, not writings, but reflections. I completely forgot about Professor McCormack and constructivism. As I read through my reflections, it came flooding back…it is kind of unbelievable…I can’t believe I wrote the things I wrote way back then. She really planted a seed! In hindsight, I learned almost everything I know about being a reflective practitioner, learning from failure, perseverance, empathy, trust, and building relationships from a college course titled Social Studies Methods that had no syllabus (on purpose). Oh, and that no syllabus thing, caused an uproar. And, yes, I was part of the uproar. As weeks past and she guided us through the process of owning our learning…several of us were thriving….some were surviving…and others dropped. Those that struggled did so because of the structures they were operating in and, in my opinion, they were clinging to. We all knew that outside of SS Methods class those “structures” dominated and were eagerly awaiting to save us from the unpredictable waters of deeper learning, self-pacing, and being responsible for our own learning. She planted the seed and, in my opinion, it flourished in at least one of her students. How might we plant those seeds in others? Thinking that “breaking down the structures” might be futile. What would happen if, collectively, there was no longer a desire to operate within/in accordance with those “structures”? I do not mean this in a disruptive way. I mean this to be constructive. To build up from within ourselves as educators and redefine the structure so that it becomes on that fosters “understanding” (p.48) and growth (on all fronts).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great reflection now! Thanks for sharing. A perfect example. Very much how I felt when we were working with Sara Wilke. She never let us fall back to our comfort zone.

      Delete
  7. The introduction and chapter 1 both remind me of a quote from the recent Reading is Thinking 2.0 conference, "The more you learn, the more you Wonder." Curiosity needs to be the motivating factor in lessons throughout all classrooms. I think as teachers we sometimes give in to uncomfortable wait times or give hints in order to 'help' students feel successful and not face frustration when an answer/possible outcome does not come readily to mind thus moving away from our true purpose of curating adventurers/discoverers. The idea to "probe, push, and uncover students' thinking"(page 33) allows students to see multiple possibilities while using given and self created thinking tools. All of which gives both the students and the teachers new ways to grow and think of issues - mirroring real life.

    ReplyDelete